Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ravens score with a winner in Matt Birk

I just finished watching the Matt Birk press conference and I can’t help but think that some things happen for reasons.

I like Jason Brown. I like his smarts and his leadership. I do think his game is a tad overrated at the moment but that’s not to say that he can’t become a Pro Bowl caliber center. In fact I think he will become that player.

Matt Birk already is that player – a Pro Bowler. Plus he’s a Harvard Grad and was the leader of one of the game’s best offensive lines in Minnesota. Centers can go at it for quite a while in the NFL so age shouldn’t really be a factor given the 32-year-old Birk’s 3 year deal – a deal mind you (3 years, $12 million) that is dwarfed by Jason Brown’s 6 year, $37.5 million deal.

Keep this in mind too... Brown was a fourth round pick. What’s to say that Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz can’t find the next Jason Brown in the 2009 NFL Draft? And this time around, the newly drafted center will have a player who just might have put the “M” in mentor to help bring the young player around.

Yet this signing begs the question why – why did Birk pick Baltimore over Minnesota? Here’s a guy who was born and bred in Minnesota and has been a career long Viking. He is a decorated player with 6 trips to Honolulu on his resume. His story is somewhat Ripken-esque.

He has four young children and anyone that has elementary school children and toddlers knows that it’s hard to uproot them and even more challenging to find the infrastructure – the support system to care for the children in the event Mom wants to have some semblance of a life outside of being a parent or if Mommy and Daddy want to have a quiet dinner in Little Italy at LaScala Ristorante.

Was it the money?

Don’t think so. From what we’ve been told Minnesota was offering money comparable to the Ravens and what Birk received from Ozzie Newsome almost seems like chump change given the deals of Jason Brown and Jake Grove (5 year, $30 million deal that includes $14.5 million guaranteed).

Maybe Birk didn’t want to play in a crappy dome any more.

Maybe he likes the Chesapeake Bay.

Perhaps he doesn’t like Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress.

Did someone say Super Bowl ring?

However you look at it, the move qualifies as a win-win. The Ravens get a solid player who once took on Shaun Rogers twice annually when Rogers was with the Lions. He is a great signal caller on the line and he’s an outstanding human being.
Birk might not be the mauler he once was but he could help the youthful talent that will line up to his left (Ben Grubbs) and right (Marshal Yanda) next season.
Good things happen to good people.

Things happen for reasons.

Tired clichés for sure but would anyone be surprised if one day Matt Birk hoists the Lombardi Trophy and emphatically claims, “This is why I came to Baltimore!”

The big free agent signings get the media’s attention but it’s signings like Matt Birk’s that helps win championships.

Score one for Ozzie.


Anonymous said...

Things happen for reasons. And sometimes those reasons are mistakes. This is a mistake, IMO. Not as big a mistake as if Chris Chester were starting at center. But this is just another example of Ozzie Newsome's lowballing when it comes to the offensive line, and sacrificing the future cornerstone for a bargain. Nothing new there. From Mitchell to Rabach to Brown -- and a whole lotta Flynn in between. We had a home grown top tier center on the rise, and we settled for an aging center with declining skills on the cheap. Same old, same old, Tony.

While Ozzie overpaid for Foxworth and Ray Lewis. Time will tell. But Birk is damage control; nothing more, nothing less.

Prediction: He'll have more holding penalties called against him in 2009 than Brown. Read the posts by some of the Vikes fans -- especially the ones supporting him, not the ones disgruntled that he left, on

Anonymous said...

Well said.

OL Coach said...

Mitchell and Rabach were/are very average players. Historically, it's very foolish to pay interior linemen much's almost always poorly spent. The biggest issue is that interior players help each other. It's easy to cover one liability or two. All of your money should be allocated to the skill players on the line (left and right tackle). As good as Jeff Saturday is as a player for the Colts, he's only that good because Peyton Manning throws his passes on average at 1.60 seconds. That's why the Colts have never paid him (Saturday) more than 3.5M per year. Look at what the Colts are paying Ugoh---a left tackle. The secret to teams like the Colts and Patriots and Broncos is not their players, it's their coach.....Howard Mudd, Dante Scarrnechia, and Alex Gibbs are great coaches who can take marginal OL and make them functional as a unit. I believe the Ravens coach, John Matsko, is capable of this as well. Whether the Ravens use Grubbs, Birk, Yanda, Chester, Cousins, Hale, etc, on the interior, there will be very little evident slippage. They are virtually interchangeable. I do not believe they'll miss Brown at all. Jason Brown only played when Muli got hurt....Muli only played when Blackshear got hurt....As long as Matsko is coaching that group, they'll be fine. The biggest problem was that the old OL coach (Chris Foerster) was awful. After Coletto left, the line suffered greatly. We are now back to playing as a unit. Birk will pay huge dividends considering what he brings to Grubbs, Chester, and Yanda.

And one other thing. Newsome has made a huge commitment to the OL through the draft with great results. Watching them gel this season was a treat. I expect the same in '09

Anonymous said...

To OL coach:

First of all, there's no doubt Coletto was light years ahead of Foerster. But even he could not do much with the human turnstile Flynn at center. Anyt other take on that is simply revisionist history at its worst.

Jerry B said...

You're right on the money, for a "change" (pun intended!), TL!

I like everything the Ravens have done so far. It's easy to forget sometimes that players we hate to see go were brought in by the GM who's letting them go and who knows better than we do what he's doing. Scott became expendable because they were able to keep both Ray and Suggs and because they have a plethora of LBs waiting in the wings. Matt Birk for Jason Brown looks to be an immediate upgrade at a fraction of the cost, notwithstanding the fact that Brown is a quality player. Not to underestimate the center position, but it has been relatively easy to find replacements in the past for Jeff Mitchell and Casey Rabach and this looks like an exceptional replacement! Jim Leonhard was brought here as a backup and may not have had much playing time but for Landry's injury. Taking nothing away from the season he had, it will be interesting to see how he fares without an Ed Reed behind him; ditto Bart Scott playing without Ray Lewis next to him. The league is literally littered with former Ravens who just don't seem to do as well with other teams.

Yes, sir, this team is shaping up as something special. Now, we NEED a quality receiver (NO, NOT TO!), another tight end and some depth on the offensive line. My bet is that Ozzie and company will "get it done" as they usually do. Then, we'll see you again next year in the.........playoffs!

Anonymous said...

To Jerry B:

To say that Flynn was a good solution to Mitchell and Rabach is sheer nonsense.

Don Banks said...

actually, flynn came before rabach. the ravens reupped flynn because rabach looked so poor at guard.....when flynn got hurt, rabach played center and played well. the problem was that flynn had already gotten a new deal and rabach was in the last year of his. the mistake was not to replace rabach with flynn but that rabach should have had a chance to compete at center with flynn. it's an age old problem. coaches like to play veterans because they have a comfort level with them. rabach was a younger player and the coaches didn't give him an opportunity at center until flynn got hurt. to flynn's credit, he played pretty well until he started to break down physically. unfortunately, rabach had already left the building. the same thing almost happened with bart scott who almost went to cleveland before he really got a chance to play in baltimore. the only reason scott played in '05 was because polley got hurt. it's hard sometimes with younger players who develop late like scott and rabach because they may not emerge until the last year of their deal (happened to both players). another good example to a degree was chester this year. he had shown nothing at all in career until yanda went down this year. arguably he was the best lineman of the bunch on tape over the last ten games. prior to that he was a bust. had he not gotten a chance, he'd have probably been cast aside. now he's the starter going into 2009 at right guard. we're so quick to judge the younger players who don't play as busts. it's a natural thing to do.